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Identity Theft Countermeasures?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the don't-keep-your-identity-in-your-back-pocket dept.

Security 609

gbell asks: "Stories about reconstructing shredded documents and horrific tales of rampant identity theft (at least 750K victims/year) have me scared and wondering if I'm being careful enough. What are savvy Slashdot readers doing to protect their financial identity? I already have fraud alerts on my credit reports, which make sure I'm contacted if any requests for additional credit happen. I've called 800-5-OPT-OUT and stopped all the credit card offers. I use unique passwords on all of my online financial accounts. I shred and pulp-ify all documents. I order periodic copies of my credit reports (although I'm irked that I have to pay for them - they're only free if you've been recently denied credit). Is there anything else I should be doing? People spend years sorting out ID theft, and I'm wondering when credit-abusers will start crying 'fraud' just to get out of debt... making things even harder for the true victims. Cops don't have time to do anything, even if you find the perp yourself. The situation looks like it's going to get much worse, and I'm willing to take steps now to increase my security at the cost of convenience. Suggestions?"

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You're overreacting (1, Insightful)

mjmalone (677326) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680841)

IMO this is just another case of the media sesationalizing news to drive up ratings. The article you cited only proves my theory, it reads like one of those community interest pieces on local TV telling the whole sad life story of Michael Berry... like i give a damn.

use unique passwords on all of my online financial accounts. I shred and pulp-ify all documents. I order periodic copies of my credit reports...

I really don't think all of this is necessary. And where did you hear that there were 750,000 cases of identity theft anually? I think this is a stretch. How is identity theft being defined in this report? Would you clasify credit card fraud as identity theft? In that case the number might be accurate, but cc fraud is mostly just a hassle for you as the credit card company and their insurance company are the ones who are liable.

Re:You're overreacting (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680924)

I was going to reply to this with the same overreaction theory. Shame I'd have been modded down though. Kudos to you, mjmalone. Well done.

Re:You're overreacting (5, Insightful)

x_man (63452) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680973)

I beg to differ. ID theft is one of the fastest rising crimes in the nation. It's easy, low-risk, and quite lucrative. Right now your odds of getting hit are about the same as being sued by the RIAA but that's sure to rise as the criminals start scripting their thefts from online databases using their PC's. I think there are two ways to stop ID theft:

1) Pass laws stopping the profileration of personal data between Corps without your consent

2) Hold companies accountable if they mishandle your personal data

I think #2 is the big one. It is unbelievable to me that TRW, Equifax, et al can compile massive databases on people without our consent that governs whether or not you can even rent an apartment and then disavow all accountability when that data is inaccurate or misappropriated.

X

Re:You're overreacting (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681024)

Xman is right.

I know of a family friend who it happened to and the worst part of it was that it too "so many months" of agravation and the other person treated it liek it was a joke ruining her credit and charging things on her credit card...

Sincerely,

xman
(I just took xman's identity! just kidding.)

Re:You're overreacting (5, Informative)

Satan's Librarian (581495) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681057)

Agreed. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime [ncvc.org] , it was about 1/10th that figure for 2001 (the most recent stats they have).

Looking at one of their reports, I believe the quote was "The FTC's identity theft Web site had received more than 699,000 hits since it was launched in February 2000" that spawned that number.... The actual report I expect it's from is here [ftc.gov] , and the article from the story misquoted it - the actual number of complaints to the FTC via their hotline for 2001 was over (but probably around) 86,000.

Several websites seem to use the larger number, but most of them are selling something and just playing "woopsie" with the numbers.

At 86,000, that puts it more at the level of arson. So I'll spend just about as much effort avoiding it - none outside of common sense. However, my credit cards do have insurance, just like I have insurance on my apartment and belongings. And I don't post my SS# to usenet.

What I encounter far more often is the stupid debt collection agencies sending me bills that have nothing to do with me, where the name is slightly different and the SS# is nowhere near the same - I don't think those are someone trying to steal my identity. Rather, I think it's the debt collectors getting desperate to find someone and spamming any name that's even close hoping that either they'll find him, or someone else will pay the bill without realizing it isn't them.

Oh - by the way, the "using seperate random passwords for important online accounts" thing.... I count that as common sense. Add in - not logging into bank or brokerage services from untrusted computers, especially at Kinko's.

Re:You're overreacting (4, Insightful)

stilwebm (129567) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681089)

I agree. This is another case of the FEARS Virus [mybusinessmag.com] . Many cases of identity theft are roomates, sometimes even family, intercepting mail and using their knowledge of your Social Security number or where to find it. In fact, most of the cases labeled as "Identity Theft" are not cases of someone going out and getting a driverse license with their picture and the victim's name. Those cases indeed occur, but are far more rare and usually executed by experienced "professional" criminals.

That aside, I have taken these measures to avoid identity theft:

1) Removed any mention of my social security number from my wallet. This required complaining to my health insurance company to get a new ID Number and renewing my driver's license in person. Well worth it.

2) Destroy all "preapproved" credit card offers. Mostly this means just ripping to shreads the unique IDs/barcodes and addresses that are inkjetted on to the press or laser printed form.

3) Never give passwords or financial information to financial web sites that are not required to complete transactions. This will minimize your exposure to hacking.

Many states have laws allowing you to get a free credit report if you suspect you've been denied credit due to an error in credit bureau records. If you're still nervous without being denied credit, get a low cost credit report for about $30 from a company such as TrueCredit.com [truecredit.com] .

Re:You're overreacting (4, Interesting)

swordboy (472941) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681097)

IMO this is just another case of the media sesationalizing news to drive up ratings.

No... it isn't. Allow me to elaborate:

My employer uses an electronic payment system provided by iPay [ipay.com] . The other day, I was required to "re-regster" due to some "security enhancements". A long story short: the registration process hick-upped and I was able to pull up some serious information (accidentally) on *other people*. I could have done some damage with this info. Much damage. But instead, I called up, reported the event and switched back to the old mail-it-to-me method of compensation. It is worth it.

Another event happeed recently - I registered for DTE Energy [dteenergy.com] for auto-deduct/electronic billing. After I had some trouble with the freakin' way the site handles cookies, I would up calling tech support. It turns out that DTE simply uses CheckFree.com [checkfree.com] to provide these services. In the process of registration, DTE simply *stole* my MSN Passport (it did not notify me and I had no idea that I had a checkfree account until the tech told me). When the tech support agent told me that my logon to checkfree was *my freaking MSN passport*, I bitched like hell and asked him to cancel my account. I mean, WTF? Do they think that I'd be happy to trust *Microsoft* with my checking account?

I could go on... The bottom line is that nothing is safe anymore. Democracy and Capitalism are mutally exclusive.

watch out for receipts (4, Informative)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680850)

when you get a receipt, tear out your credit card number and tear it into smaller pieces. People can pick them out of the trash. I'm always careful to do this, many places put your number on your receipt.

Re:watch out for receipts (1)

Ryosen (234440) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680900)

Alternatively, you can just check your credit card statement each month for suspicious activity. Since you have practically no liability for fradulent charges (the Fed mandates a maximum liability of $50 but many banks have set it to $0), you should worry too much about the number getting out. Sure, it's a pain to have to get a new card issued, but it's a small price to pay to not be liable for things that are out of your control anyway.

Re:watch out for receipts (3, Informative)

PortWineBoy (587071) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680913)

Many receipts no longer display the entire card number. I'm not so sure I would shop anywhere that did display the whole thing anymore. My only experience with ID theft was when my card was stolen by a clothing store employee via the receipt, but this was 12 years ago or more.

My latina friend had her identity stolen to provide papers to an illegal immigrant.

If your identity is stolen visit the ftc.gov website.

Re:watch out for receipts (3, Funny)

Maditude (473526) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680977)

Or just dump something suitably gross in with 'em. I just dump out my chaw-spit cans.

(-1, disgusting)

Disgusting (1)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681064)

Finally, a good use for used diapers.

This is offtopic. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680851)

Mark: here's the plans. After decoding, make sure you only store them on a floppy disk and then destroy it.

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====

Re:This is offtopic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680995)

Please repost. This does not decode to txt. Again: This does not decode to txt.

Re:This is offtopic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681061)

Shit, what key are you using, try this one:-

vrhjfvy98ewth43uiyf834nfoirvy98ernv34rf34
bijvy98 hvu34ch9hvuiowncjidshvc823yfu4
uifh97ecbihhf79hvc ui34vb
cuy4f2hfu32bfui32hf82vnwkevuowqf9
gogg9ve bviog98y32rbjh4fgewyf23
wbfi8

Cops don't act (2, Insightful)

afreniere (611999) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680852)

Cops don't have time to do anything, even if you find the perp yourself.

I would just like to point out that this is not necessarily a problem of "not having time" as much as it's a problem of incentives. Cops are not incentivized to reduce the quantity of crime. Legislators are somewhat incentivized to reduce crime, or at least appear to be trying, but almost none of that actually trickles down to the department itself. Certainly there are plenty of honest individuals in the police force - but an institution as a whole, unfortunately, tends to follow its incentives regardless of how moral and honest its constituent members are. What we need is to reward police departments for actually reducing the reported crime. This of course would require a separate third party or ombudsman to report the crime to so that departments couldn't just ignore the crime reports. But IMHO this would force police departments to be more creative and proactive about reducing actual crime. Right now their biggest incentive is to get their traffic ticket quotas in each month.

-Ansel.

perp? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680886)

don't you watch tv? its `actor' now

Re:Cops don't act (3, Interesting)

bug506 (584796) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680999)

In my experience, the cops don't act because the banks just absorb the cost of these crimes.

I've had two bad experiences; once a box of checks were stolen out of my mailbox and used fraudulently for about $300 total, and once my credit card number was stolen and used for about $300 also. Both times the bank refunded me the money, although I still had to go through various hassles to clear my name.

The first time there admittedly wasn't much to go on in finding who did it. The second time, the woman used the credit card to PAY HER UTILITY BILLS, so she tied her address to her fraudulent use of the card! I called the companies and got her address. The thief was someone in Provo, Utah.

When I called my local (San Jose, California) Police Department, they basically said there wasn't much they could do about it. And I believed them because they hadn't done anything about my stolen checks.

So I called the Provo, Utah police department. I figured they would care more about having a criminal in their city.

The policeman sounded genuinely concerned, but after a while he called me back and told me that since the bank had refunded my money, technically THEY were the victims. The prosecutors will only act if the victim wants them to, and the policeman said in most cases the banks won't act. It's just cheaper for them to absorb the cost.

So, basically this identity theft issue is a big problem, but the people who are doing it know that as long as they don't spend too much then they will never get prosecuted. I'm guessing the woman who used my credit card to pay her bills knew this--I can't imagine a criminal would be so stupid to do this unless they knew there would be no consequences.

And, by the way, I consider myself to be relatively anal about shredding personal documents, not using my credit card at web sites that I do not know anything about, et cetera.

(And after the stolen checks, I got a locking mailbox, though it physically hurt me to do this--to basically send out a signal of distrust in my front yard.)

Yet my credit card number was still stolen. My gut feeling? I think it was probably a waiter at one of the restaurants I have been to. There's not much I can do about that other than carrying around large amounts of cash.

I call BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681007)

In my town, the cops get to confiscate vehicles and then drive them as a "company car" they paint DARE all over them but its still a porsche.

Re:Cops don't act (1)

niko9 (315647) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681080)

So your saying a wet T shirt contest in front of the precint in the summer months and a couple of kegs of beer should make my block a whole lot safer?

Sweet.

Well... (2, Insightful)

cliffy2000 (185461) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680853)

Something similar happened to me, when someone changed their name to exactly the name of my father, and our credit reports got mixed up. (They lived in the same town, so it was odd.) All it took was a call to the credit company to get it straightened out, but we need to call occasionally to make sure that the credit gets fixed. 'das all.

Two measures (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680857)

1. Delete your identity. I mean, really, do you need one? Just pay with cash and work for money under the table!

2. Steal someone elses and use it as your own. Then, if it's stolen, your real identity is still safe, and you can go steal another one.

I, for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680859)

don't give out anything that would identify me online, if I can possibly avoid it.

As a result, very few online know anything about me. It's just easier that way.

Re:I, for one... (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681003)

I, for one...
by Anonymous Coward
don't give out anything that would identify me online, if I can possibly avoid it.


Something tells me that this discussion is going to have a *lot* of AC posts...

Why not steal his identity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680864)

Why not steal the suckers identity! An eye for an eye... a credit card bill for no credit card bill....

Summary: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680865)

Ask Slashdot: Identity Theft Countermeasures? (-1, Troll)

I'd be willing to bet that most of this happens... (4, Interesting)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680873)

...because of two simple reasons:

1) Social security numbers are being used as "unique identifying numbers" EVERYWHERE. When you've gotten someone's SS#, you're halfway to having their identity.
2) Corporations and government agencies now operate almost exclusively on "scripts" and set patterns of behavior. In other words, there is a system to how each and every corporation or government entity does each and every thing that it does. Once you learn the system, all it takes is a little clever social engineering to pass your way through the entity's "checkpoints" (say, the question "What is your mother's maiden name?" or "What are the last four digits of your social security card?") and voila, they believe you are the person you're trying to become.

Re:I'd be willing to bet that most of this happens (1)

Amit J. Patel (14049) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680942)

I was incredibly annoyed when my health insurance company printed my social security number on my health insurance card. I no longer carry that card with me. :P

- Amit [stanford.edu]

Re:I'd be willing to bet that most of this happens (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681006)

you ss# is on no less than 40 public records. Thats PUBLIC, as in go down to your local court house and look up someones info, property taxes, titles, whatever and you have their ss#. People freak-out way too much over their ss#'s, if I want your SS# all i need is your name and county of residence...

Re:I'd be willing to bet that most of this happens (2, Interesting)

bug506 (584796) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681054)

I feel more comfortable having the card with me (it's a huge headache going to the emergency room without it and having to pay/submit the bills later--it happened to my partner).

What I have done instead is to cut out my social security number from the card. It hasn't phased any of the people I've given it to at hospitals or clinics, they just ask me to give them my social so they can write it on the photocopy of the card that they make.

Re:I'd be willing to bet that most of this happens (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680993)

Such scripts can also be used to help the 'victum' in this case... or as in my own case... many of the people along that scripts chain have misspelled or mistook my name so badly and in so many ways... that even if someone 'stole' my identity... they could only get one of many of them and would be quiet unsure what one would be me for real. And if they don't get the right one...

Well.... they be doomed to confusion.

This also works with the government. So far most of them have not a clue who I really am.

Worried? bah ... (5, Funny)

Ryokos_boytoy (259245) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680875)

Just do what I did ...ruin your credit and stay unemployed. I couldn't give my identity away.

Re:Worried? bah ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680898)

How about stealing your own indentity?

Re:Worried? bah ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681044)

On the plus side, you're very likely eligible for a free credit report (due to being unemployed). You'll most likely have to write a real paper letter to get it (they won't let you do it for free if you do it online -- stupid but true). Here [bankrate.com] is a nice informative article about that.

By the way, I'm not just relying on the info in that article. I myself was unemployed and managed to get free reports from the agencies. It was kind of a positive thing because, being unemployed, I had free time but no money, and this fit with both those. Also, it was nice to get something constructive done, even if I couldn't get a job. (Which I eventually did...)

I suggest tinfoil (5, Funny)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680883)

Tin, not aluminium.

Not good enough (1)

IIRCAFAIKIANAL (572786) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681095)

Wrap all your credit cards and identification in tinfoil. Encase it in solid cement and bury it under a tonne of scrap metal. Then shoot anyone that comes within 100 meters of your id stash.

Sad News... Filthy Critic dead at 54 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680885)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - movie review writer The Filthy Critic [bigempire.com] was found dead outside the Arvada Tavern last Thursday. He died the way he lived--wobbling aimlessly in the slow lane. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

Change your name to something stupid .. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680887)

Such as Bill Gates.

I mean who is going to try and steal his identity?

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680896)

I buy SCO shares, write to my government in support of DMCA, advise Microsoft on their competitor's moves and ways to hurt them, complain about the lack of options in Slashdot polls, think that patents are essential to modern economies and current US patent practices are lax and do not provide enough incentives, use Visual Basic, buy Disney movies, drive an SUV and am Microsoft-certified.

Everyone who tried to steal my identity so far died of shame and contempt from fellow citizens.

The important part (-1, Troll)

DaddyExcellent (632540) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680902)

How to Protect Yourself

To reduce the risk of falling victim to identity thieves, consider these recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission and a nonprofit group called the Privacy Rights Clearingboard:

Check your credit report seven or eight times a year. Unfamiliar or missing transactions may signal trouble. You can order the reports for a small fee online or over the telephone.

Use your Social Security number sparingly and do not carry it in your wallet or purse. Never provide that number -- or other sensitive personal information -- to telephone callers or people online unless you initiated the contact.

Destroy credit card receipts to ensure an ethnic doesn't find them. Also destroy unwanted offers of preapproved credit, which contain details that make life easier for identity thieves.

Close out unused or little-used credit card accounts.

If you suspect you have been victimized, immediately contact the top three credit bureaus. They will mail out credit reports for free to people who believe they are victims, and they will place fraud alerts on the suspected victims' accounts. Equifax: 888-766-0008; Experian: 888-397-3742; Trans Union: 800-680-7289.


For more information on identity theft, go to www.consumer.gov/idtheft, the FTC's Web site; www.privacyrights.org/identity.htm, a site maintained by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; or www.cdiaonline.org/consumers2.cfm, a site created by the Consumer Data Industry Association, which represents the credit bureaus. Your mothers swimsuit is full of dried up knicker bacon.
-- R.O.

Fucking troll assmunch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680959)

Destroy credit card receipts to ensure an ethnic doesn't find them.
Your mothers swimsuit is full of dried up knicker bacon.

Mod this twit the fuck down.

Re:The important part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680988)

  • Destroy credit card receipts to ensure an ethnic doesn't find them. Also destroy unwanted offers of preapproved credit, which contain details that make life easier for identity thieves.


Say what?? An ethnic?? Wtf

Re:The important part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681005)

he means a nigger.

Racist idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681042)

He means a wetback.

Re:The important part (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681028)

you ss# is on no less than 40 public records. Thats PUBLIC, as in go down to your local court house and look up someones info, property taxes, titles, whatever and you have their ss#. People freak-out way too much over their ss#'s, if I want your SS# all i need is your name and county of residence...

Re:The important part (1)

DaveAtFraud (460127) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681066)

Also, you can instruct the credit reporting services that you do not want "instant credit." These are the deals you see at various stores where you can get one of that store's credit cards simply by showing you already have a Master Card, Visa, Discover, etc. and a driver's license. They even offer you 10% off your purchases as an additional incentive for signing up on the spot. If your wallet gets stolen, these deals make it all too easy for someone to open up a bunch of accounts at a variety of places and you *don't even know the accounts exist* until they don't get paid and a collection agency backtracks the applications to you.

Its a hassle since you can't get a credit card on the spot but its one less way for someone to easily pretend to be you.

God Bless America (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680905)

God Bless America

God Bless America, with the worst crime levels in the first world
God Bless America, where "democracy" means a rich, white male as President
God Bless America, the biggest consumer of the world's natural resources
God Bless America, where "freedom of speech" means race-hate groups like KKK
God Bless America, and its massive and ever-growing poverty gap
God Bless America, with the highest obesity levels in the developed world
God Bless America, all its appalling "sitcoms" with no grasp of irony
God Bless America, because corporations should be allowed to run amok
God Bless America, wasting billions to attack foreign countries

God Bless America, and thank God I don't have to live there.

Re:God Bless America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680997)

God Bless America, where the best rapper is a white dude.

God Bless America, where the best golfer is a black dude.

God Bless America, when it wants to go to war and the Germans dont.

God Bless America

God Bless America

God Bless America

God Bless America

God Bless America

Re:God Bless America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681094)


A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey's on the moon)
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man jus' upped my rent las' night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
I wonder why he's uppi' me?
('cause Whitey's on the moon?)
I wuz already payin' 'im fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes takin' my whole damn check,
Junkies makin' me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin' up,
An' as if all that shit wuzn't enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face an' arm began to swell.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Was all that money I made las' year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain't no money here?
(Hmm! Whitey's on the moon)
Y'know I jus' 'bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I'll sen' these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)

God bless America

Post your SSN, then start suing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680906)

If everyone (or a governement on their behalf) would publish their names with their Social Security Numbers, then society would quickly come up with a better way to deal with ID theft, than half-hearted attempts at keeping them secret from everyone but any employer or potential employer or health provider or insurance agent or.....

It would also put us all at equally (low) risk.

Beyond moving to Alaska and living... (1)

Osrin (599427) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680910)

... in a remote mountain top cave, it doesn't sound like there is much else that you can be doing. One question for you; did you move all your money to into the paper dominated Bulgarian banking system in 1999 as well?

Easy (2, Funny)

platypus (18156) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680914)

Just steal an extra identity and use that.

A Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680915)

I suggest you sell all your worldy possessions, move to a cabin in Montana, and write lengthy rants on the cruelty of technology while simultaneously sending out bombs in paper bags.

Two men... (5, Insightful)

hiryuu (125210) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680918)

are about to be pounced upon by a man-eating tiger. One man starts to properly lace up and tighten his running shoes. The second one looks at him and says, "Do you think you can outrun a tiger?"

The first man replies, "I don't have to outrun the tiger - I just have to outrun you."

You're taking all the right steps to protect yourself - short of becoming an unperson, you can't become totally secure. People who resort to breaking the law to get what they want, as a general rule, are not interested in working any harder than necessary. Make sure that stealing your identity is quite a bit tougher than that of the guy next door, and let diminishing returns work for you.

Mod parent up.. (0, Offtopic)

msimm (580077) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681020)

I'm going to tell that one to my children. Well put.

And the moral of the story is.. (1)

Gherald (682277) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681072)

"Do better than average..."

Paper Shredders (4, Funny)

mr.henry (618818) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680921)

I've been thinking about investing in a good one. One interesting piece of trivia I found is that Oliver North used an Intimus [intimus.com] 007 to shred the Iran-Contra stuff back in 1987. The current incarnation of this model appears to be the Intimus 0077 SX [intimus.com] . This thing cuts pieces down to 1/32" x 1/2". A quick search on Froogle [froogle.com] says it goes for around $4500!!

They make some much cheaper models ($200-300), but the Olie model would be pretty cool to have.

Re:Paper Shredders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680989)

$4500? Froogle says you can get it for the low, low price of $15.95 [google.com] !

Stoopid Froogle.

Re:Paper Shredders (1)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681034)

You can actually justify $4500 for a personal shredder?

I just keep all my personal stuff for a year, then burn it during the annual camping trip.

Fraud Indicator (1)

rmcii (182070) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680923)

Visit http://www.transunion.com/content/page.jsp?id=/per sonalsolutions/general/data/FraudInformation.xml

I did it the easy way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680930)

...by totally trashing my credit and getting myself accused of murder. Anyone who steals my identity is in for a rude awakening.

Countermeasures (5, Funny)

Theodore Logan (139352) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680931)

Is there anything else I should be doing?

Consider getting one of these [c2.com] .

Re:Countermeasures (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680938)

And one of those [goatse.cx] .

Re:Countermeasures (2, Informative)

Theodore Logan (139352) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681046)

At second thought, perhaps that was uncalled for, given that ID theft really is a serious problem. However, like several posters have already suggested, it does seem like you're overreacting. Shredding documents in particular is probably completely unnecessary. The likelyhood of someone actually going through your trash to find documents to use for ID theft is so low as to be neglectable.

The 750K figure and others mentioned in the Washington Post link probably includes people merely "taking" the identity but not "using" it. This could, for example, include script kiddies stealing databases with thousands and thousands of credit card numbers and personal info but doing nothing with it (or doing something, but only with small parts of it).

But it is true that one should keep an eye open. Here's what your favorite .gov recommends [consumer.gov] .

Social Security Number (2, Insightful)

pshuman (68722) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680940)

Do not use your social security number for anything other than taxes and social security. Once someone has your name and SSN, they can sign up for credit cards in your name.

Health insurance, higher education organizations, etc. love using SSN because it is unique. These organizations can not require you to give your SSN.

When signing up for new service, write Please assign number in the SSN box. Most places I have done this with are happy to comply. If you already have accounts with your SSN as your id, CHANGE IT and just tell your doctors your insurance number changed.

750k (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680949)

Is just under 1/3% based on 2000 census data [census.gov]

Based on your current practices I calculate that you are more likely to be eaten by a grue than to have your ID stolen.

-Peter

Re:750k (2, Funny)

seraph93 (560551) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681031)

Based on your current practices I calculate that you are more likely to be eaten by a grue than to have your ID stolen.

So is preventing identity theft just a matter of keeping a lantern handy at all times?

"It is pitch black. You are likely to have your identity stolen."

identity theft? (1)

micker (668555) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680950)

I was a victim of this crime from 86 - 99 without ever knowing it.... I cant even get a credit report because the info on mine is soo skewed it doesnt reflect that I am even who I am. I now use other names and heavy encryption to stay safe. I only pay in cash. I'm quite paranoid. Dont let it happen to you.

Re:identity theft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681033)

You probably know this already, or dont care anymore, but you are entitled by law to have the infomration corrected under the FCRA

http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcra.htm#609

Quit being paranoid (1)

portelli (146113) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680955)

They track your every move with those strips in the CC's. Shhhhh, carry them in tin foil.

Identity Theft (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680957)

Do like I do, don't use my real identity. If someone starts using one of my identities, I stop using it, and continue with another one.

Just kidding. But some people do this..

Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680960)

Change your name by deed poll to 'My Name Has Been Stolen!'

You may have problems in airports and anywhere else where proof of identity is required, but at least nobody else will steal it...

I got scammed, sorta. (1)

useosx (693652) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680961)

I was selling a video card for a friend on eBay, and someone writes me from Spain, saying she's starting a computer shop in Amsterdam or something and needs parts. She was completely insane, but I just chalked it up to the language barrier. I cancelled the auction and waited for her to transfer money to my PayPal account. I wasn't really concerned because I figured since I got the money first, what did I have to lose?

A lot, it turns out. So she finally transfers me the money, I transfer the money to my bank account, and I go right down to FedEx and send the card 2-day. When I get back home, I have an email from PayPal telling me that the person who sent me the money had their account hijacked and PayPal had taken the money back. This, I suppose, was fine. I couldn't argue because I had agreed to their terms. I was a little pissed because I wasn't the idiot who had their account hijacked, but such is life.

So I immediately called FedEx and had them stop the shipment, but it was already over the Atlantic, so they couldn't stop it until it got to Spain. This caused me to have to pay for it to be shipped back, effectively doubling my shipping costs. Not cheap...this was 2-day to Spain.

I was further irked by PayPal's bad programming. Instead of intercepting and canceling my bank transfer, they just deducted the money from my PayPal account, so now I was in the negative, and had to wait for the transfer to go through, and then transfer the money back. Annoying, but at least it was free.

So what about PayPal's protection policy? Doesn't apply to international orders. Also, you have to ship to the person's registered address. Not sure I know how to even look that up.

Oh, also, I checked the eBay ID of the person, and that was a hijacked account, too. The person sold a lot of "exotic" drinking glasses and had a high feedback rating. Obviously, not someone in the computer fraud business.

Anyway, the point of my story was that you have to be careful even if you're the seller. Only ship to registered PayPal addresses and check what sort of stuff a person is selling on eBay. I recently saw someone selling a really cheap Powerbook, but all their previous items were dolls, or something. Definitely something fishy there.

Good luck.

Re:I got scammed, sorta. (1)

plalonde2 (527372) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681079)

Better yet, don't use PayPal.

They act like a bank, but without the consumer protections. Until they are forced to be a registered bank you are just asking for trouble.

Credit reports (4, Informative)

jerrytcow (66962) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680964)

If you live in one of the following states you are entitled to one free credit report/year:
Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont.

As far as getting one when you are denied credit, all it really takes is an inquiry. The credit agency doesn't know if the credit card, loan office, etc. approved or denied you. So if you've applied for anything recently you can call up and get a free report.

Call these numbers and follow the prompts for having been denied credit:

Experian 800.353.0809

Equifax 888.567.8688

TransUnion 800.680.7293

Opt-out number has changed (1)

silverbolt (578120) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680969)

To opt-out from credit card and other marketing offers, call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. It's no longer 800-5-OPT-OUT.

Credit Report Opt Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680979)

You should note that the 1-800-5-OPT-OUT number has changed to 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. Anyone looking to opt out of credit card offers should call the new number.

One great counter-measure. (2, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680983)

Common sense. Use it.

Just this week, I was registering to take the FE exam (for engineering certification) in October. DAPE [dape.org] (who adminsters the test) then sends you a packet including a pre-addressed card that has to be sent in immediately (You've already sent them all this information. I don't understand why they want it all again) You put your information on it and mail it back to them. They actually want people to put their SSN on the card (no envelope) and mail it back. I sent it back to them (in an envelope, of course) with a little sticky-note telling them that I didnt think it was wise sending my SSN in plain sight through the mail.

Pay for your own credit report? No way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680984)

hmm.. i thought that you could always get a free copy of your credit report from any of the 3 credit reporting agencies as gauranteed by the FCRA ( read section 610 at http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcra.htm#609)...all you have to do is ask them in writing and they are obligated to do it. All these companies that offer free credit reports are data mining scams (or maybe just lesser scams)

Re:Pay for your own credit report? No way! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681010)

Every time you request a copy of your credit report, your credit rating declines. Doing it several times a year will quickly put you on the wrong side of the credit game.

Don't check too often (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6680986)

Every time you check your credit you risk damaging your credit. Stupid but true. As few as two checks can damage your credit score. So don't go checking your report a lot.

Over the top? (1)

lewiz (33370) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680987)

I've called 800-5-OPT-OUT and stopped all the credit card offers. I use unique passwords on all of my online financial accounts. I shred and pulp-ify all documents. I order periodic copies of my credit reports

Erm... you really think they're after you, don't you?

MOD GRANDPARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681022)

+1, paranoid

Identity Theft Fear Mongering (2)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 11 years ago | (#6680996)

I love how the credit agencies are fear mongering so they can sell their credit alert services. If they were really concerned about indentity theft they would allow us free acess to check our reports. Instead of making us spend $65 a year to notify us about credit changes. And BTW that $65 is for one credit agency there's two others as well. Such a scam.

The number is actually 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (2, Informative)

1010011010 (53039) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681000)

The number is actually 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. It changed recently, according to the recorded message.

You have the option of getting "off the lists" for 2 years, or forever. You also have the option of getting back on the lists -- why you'd want to, I don't know.

Hint: Don't Join the Military! (4, Informative)

cjsnell (5825) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681014)

This aggrivates me to no end. The US Army requires its soldiers to put their SSNs on almost every official peice of paperwork relating to them. Home addresses are only a 201 file away. I'm pretty sure that identity theft is rampant in the US military. Officers and high-ranking NCOs are probably even more vulnerable because of their higher salaries. I wish we would abandon SSNs for a military-only serial number.

Reconcile all your financial statements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681016)

That way if anything does happen, you will notice any false transactions straight away and takes steps to stop it immediately.

Snail Mail (1)

goroth (629614) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681025)

If you're sending snail-mail, dropt it off at the post office or in an official postal service collection box. Trust me, I know from experience.

Two good tips... (2, Interesting)

idgrad (137342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681027)

I have two good tips for people- I recently had to get a rather large line of credit, and had a few tips from the banker:

1) Have all your cheques, and credit cards just use your first and middle inital, and of course your full last name. That way, if someone is trying to forge your signiture, (at least for cheques) they have no idea how you sign your name, ie do you include the intials ect...

2) Use a strange name/password on all your bank accounts instead of your mothers maiden name. With all the info available in a wallet, this is sort of a last line of defence for you, you're better off using something they can't figure out themselves by doing a little research. You dont need to make it a 'strong' password (I can just picture someone talking to the operators at visa:'lower case h, upper case J, 5, ') but make it difficult to guess or research.

Re:Two good tips... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681092)

Better yet, use checks and credit cards as little as possible. Every time you do, someone else has your numbers...

Best countermeasures yet.... (0, Redundant)

xinit (6477) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681038)

I try to make my identity as unattractive as I can to thieves... Huge debt load, multiple bankrupcties, name in all of the telemarketing databases, etc. Let the bastards have it.

Paying for Credit Reports (4, Insightful)

rowanxmas (569908) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681048)

So, if you have had the "fun" of dealing with credit in the USA lately you may have learned a few things:
  1. You are FUCKED if something happens to you, like your old wireless company charging you after you've ended your contract and then not contacting you, then reporting you, then having them not contact you, then finding out when you try to get a loan.
  2. It takes SEVEN years for a collection that you paid for to go off your record
  3. The only way to have good credit is to be in DEBT!!! Nevermind that you made it through college, and several years after with no debt, and no credit cards, since you shouldn't really need them.
  4. The credit reporting agencies seem to operate with no oversite, and there is no way to actaully contact a person at them.
  5. It is BULLSHIT that you have to PAY for your own credit report!! This has become a critical part of getting stuff ( i.e. fun new toys ), and it does NOT cost them $10 to send me an e-mail.

If you are like me and really pissed off, and have some good advice on legislation that can be supported to change all this, please post it below.

Ready just now? (2, Informative)

Coventry (3779) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681053)

I'm willing to take steps now to increase my security at the cost of convenience.
(emphasis mine)

Not to rain on your parade or anything, but from the trouble you've taken (different passwords everywhere, spending money on periodic credit reports, premptive fraud alarms attached to your credit that will make applying for any sort of acredit a Pain for you) you already ARE at the point where you've given up a lot of convienence.

That being said, the one thing I've done that is 'inconvienent' is I don't sign my credit cards. Now, I don't mean I leave them blank - thats asking to get ripped off (anyone who steals the card can sign your name) - I put 'SEE ID' in the signature area. Mind you, a few places don't even bother to check the sig area, so you're still SOL if someone steals your card and uses it at a lax restraunt or gas station, but having the guy behind the counter ask to see a photo ID every time I buy something expensive feels like a good tradeoff to me.

Of course, someone could always make a fake ID with their photo and my name on it, but thats a lot of effort, and frankly, I'm not That paranoid. I have fraud insurance on all of my accounts, and have very clean credit. If I loose a card at an ATM (by forgetting it), or loose a imprinted recipt, I call the card company immediatly. Having a track record of getting new cards whenever something like that happens does wonders when there is something questionable on your statement and you call about it.
Along that vein, a friend of mine recommends reporting your card lost once or twice a year, just to get new cards with different numbers.

Then again, that friend is a little bit more paranoid then I am... He's about as paranoid as you are...
Hey, wait a second, you're name isn't Bryan is it?

No problem... (5, Funny)

sevensharpnine (231974) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681059)

It's important to remember that even though identity thieves are among the lowest of criminals, they aren't necessarily stupid. It's a common tactic for thieves to prey upon those who offer the greatest "return" on the investment of the thieves' time. Those most at risk are likely to have a number of common factors: high-limit or even limitless credit cards, excellent credit ratings, a complex network of high-balance accounts in various banks, a significant amount of money in savings and investments, etc. In order to best protect yourself and your loved ones, I recommend that you minimize your profile to the would-be thieves. There are a number of simple steps you can take to ensure your safety. For example:

* Do you have student loans? If so, consider letting the payments slip a little. Nobody wants an identity that can't take out student loans!

* Keeping up on your car payments? Stop. Thieves are less likely to steal the identity of someone who is being harassed by a repo man. As an added bonus, your chances of being victim to auto-theft just decreased significantly!

* Do you have a mortgage? Possibly, but I doubt you have enough of them! No thief wants to inherit the wrath of a bank trying to track down three mortgages' worth of money!

* How are your long-term investments? CD's? Mutual funds? Privately-managed portfolio? It doesn't matter; all of these glitter to the eyes of a veteran identity thief. You are much safer holding your money in an interest-free highly-liquid invesment account (coffee can). By reducing your apparent (and real) wealth, you become a much less desirable target.

* Employed? Then why not just toss your credit cards out the window? Nothing says "bullseye" like reliable employment. And consider this: when's the last time your heard someone in the unemployment line complain about identity theft. Never? Nobody likes to go through the effort of stealing an identity only to be rewarded with food stamps and meager checks.

In the end, identity theft will remain a significant problem in America--but only to those unlucky enough to ignore the above advice. The intelligent self-accountant will even find some more creative ways to be less attractive to thieves; consider child-support payments, court-ordered deportation, and terrorist sponsorship as well! Your safety in these trying times is only limited by your imagination.

When? Now. (2, Interesting)

siskbc (598067) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681065)

From Article: "and I'm wondering when credit-abusers will start crying 'fraud' just to get out of debt... making things even harder for the true victims."

Already. My wife sells telecom equipment for a major vendor, and they've had one guy try it. He bought something, and wanted to return it, but knew their policy wouldn't allow it. Instead, he claimed he never placed the order, that it was someone else stealing his card. Nice, huh?

Get a better shredder (1)

KU_Fletch (678324) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681071)

Most of the shredded document recovery things that exist work on the principle of long strips of shredded documents. You can get better ones that do cross cutting and essentially turn your shredded documents into confetti. Or hell, go to Home Depot and get an industrial grade garbage disponsal. Dump all your documents into one of those bad boys and nobody will ever reconstruct them.

Or you can do what my old workplace did, any shredded documents were thrown away in cycles so you never have all of a document in the trash. A little logic and common sense is all you need if you're worried about this.

Website on privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681076)

Go here: www.identitytheft.org [identitytheft.org]

Delinquent debtors are already claiming ID theft. (1)

JRHelgeson (576325) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681083)

I've recently done some security work for a large collection agency. I asked him what they do when they get someone on the line who is the victim of Identity theft? He stated that they [the debtors] all say that they're innocent victims of identity theft, its become the excuse du jour. Therefore they treat each collection as though its a legitamate debt and that *you* are the legitamate debtor.

Once you've been a victim, the onus is on you to clear it up. The dificulty is that once 'Joe Sixpack' discovers he's had his identity stolen, the credit cards are already 90 days past due. The only way to clear up the credit report at that point is to produce irrefutable evidence that you were actually a victim, and not a deadbeat debtor. So here's the rub; It is nearly impossible to collect that proof 90 days after the crime. (I swear, thats not my signature!)

Nobody wants to help you, because true deadbeat debtors are claiming victim status as well. Credit card companies won't help, they want their money. Essentially, nobody is on your side. When you have finally obtained irrefutable evidence, you must prove and prove again to every entity your victim status. The credit card company (or whomever the debt is owed to), the company that is holding the debt (collection agencies) et al, and THEN you must convince the Credit Bureaus (all three of them).

This is why getting the ID stolen is such a pain. I know, I was once a victim.

Switching gears here...
I performed a security audit on a College last year. I was horrified to discover that even today they are using the students Social Security Numbers as the Student ID's. I realize this is nothing new, but the fact that this information is used in such an open forum is staggering. Professors post student grades on tests under the "Student ID's" so you don't know who got the A's, and who got the F's. Take that list of SSN#'s, correlate to names, figure out where they live and you've got a whole slate full of pristine credit reports.

When I was young and stupid (1)

dodell (83471) | more than 11 years ago | (#6681087)

(Well, I'm 19, so read the above: about 6 years ago) I was hanging out with some of my young and stupid "friends" in a mall, and some lady had left her obviously expensive looking Visa card on the counter at an expensive store. Don't do this. (The lady had apparently cancelled it before it was of any use to the perpetrator, who tried to use it to dial 900 numbers of his liking).

While I wasn't the one who picked it up, I've still never mentioned this account to anybody. It's really easy to lose your credit cards and such no matter where you are. At a fancy restaurant? Ask if you run the card through the machine yourself. Perhaps it ruins the mood for a second, but it's better than the disgruntled 23-year old waiter who didn't like the tip you gave him.

Money surely can't buy everything, but it sucks total ass when somebody else has it.

Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and never let other people touch your credit card. 'Nuff said.

what i do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6681088)

personally, i just don't watch Fox News.
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